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Purpose: Marketing scholars have joined managers in recognizing the significance of design in many domains. Superior design can enhance products, communications, packaging, and retail settings. However, no scholarly research has investigated design effects in a business-to-business (B-to-B) context. This research will explore the impact of design decisions in trade shows, a key component of the B-to-BB-to-B marketing mix. Trade show success depends on attracting attendees to an exhibitor’s booth because buyer preferences and business relationships are formed and nurtured in that space. The design of a booth plays an important role in attracting visitors and providing a positive business atmosphere. Methodology/approach: The present study draws upon several streams of literature to examine this neglected aspect of B-to-B research. We offer a conceptual framework, followed by an empirical study of trade show attendees. Respondents evaluated various booth prototypes representing different combinations of key design elements via a conjoint-based method. Findings: Findings suggest that design matters in a B-to-B trade show setting. Our results indicate that specific design elements affect an attendee’s willingness to enter different booths. Our sample displayed a coherent set of preferences for exhibit design features. Finally, we found that some attendee characteristics moderated the effect of design on preferences—notably the theory-driven characteristics of product agenda breadth and CVPA, rather than simple demographics produced these moderating effects. Research implications: We have shown that the topic of design is relevant for B-to-B researchers. This research has identified meaningful and managerially relevant design preferences. In addition, we constructed a research framework for investigating behavioral responses to trade show booths, including four key design attributes. We empirically examined this framework with an easily reproducible conjoint methodology that may be useful for future research. Practical implications: Our results provide actionable managerial guidance on the aesthetics of booth design. There is a general preference for closed designs i.e., attendees prefer having an intercept point in the booth where they may gain information. In addition, the closed design signals a higher density of things to see in the booth, while offering a private, safe environment as well as more spatial comfort. Attendees preferred higher amounts of surface decoration. Booths with low decoration tend to be perceived as less complex, and therefore less stimulating. Originality/value/contribution: We examined long neglected implications of design to B-to-B marketing and investigated a key determinant of trade show performance. We believe this study has relevance to both scholars and practitioners while setting a roadmap for future research.
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EXPLORING BOOTH DESIGN AS A
DETERMINANT OF TRADE SHOW SUCCESS
Peter H. Blocha
Srinath Gopalakrishnab
Andrew T. Creceliusc
Marina Scatolin Murarollid
This is a pre-print of an article published in Journal of Business-to-Business Marketing.
The final authenticated version is available online at:
https://doi.org/10.1080/1051712X.2018.1381399
a: Corresponding author. Pinkney C. Walker Teaching Excellence Professor and Professor of Marketing,
University of Missouri-Columbia, Trulaske College of Business, Cornell Hall, Columbia, MO, 65211,
USA, 1-573-882-8595, blochp@missouri.edu
b: David and Judy O'Neal MBA Professor and Professor of Marketing, University of Missouri-Columbia,
Trulaske College of Business, Cornell Hall, Columbia, MO, 65211, USA, 1-573-882-2443,
srinath@missouri.edu
c: Doctoral candidate in Marketing, University of Missouri-Columbia, Trulaske College of Business,
Cornell Hall, Columbia, MO, 65211, USA, 1-573-882-3282, andrew.crecelius@mail.missouri.edu
d: Ph.D. in Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri- Columbia, MO, 65211, USA, 1-573-
882-3282, mmtzd@mail.missouri.edu.
The authors thank Exhibit Surveys, Inc. for their assistance with data collection. This research was
partially funded by the Trulaske College of Business Summer Research Program.
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EXPLORING BOOTH DESIGN AS A
DETERMINANT OF TRADE SHOW SUCCESS
Abstract
Purpose:
Marketing scholars have joined managers in recognizing the significance of design in
many domains. Products, communications, packaging, and retail settings all may be enhanced
by superior design. However, essentially no scholarly research has investigated design effects in
a business-to-business (B2B) context. This research will explore the impact of design decisions
in trade shows, a key component of the B2B marketing mix. Trade show success rests on
attracting attendees to an exhibitor’s booth because buyer preferences and business relationships
are formed and nurtured in that space. The design of a booth plays an important role in attracting
visitors and providing a positive business atmosphere.
Methodology/Approach
The present study draws upon several streams of literature to examine this neglected
aspect of B2B research. We offer a conceptual framework, followed by an empirical study of
trade show attendees. Respondents evaluated various booth prototypes representing different
combinations of key design elements via a conjoint-based method.
Findings
Findings suggest that design matters in a B2B trade show setting. Our results indicate that
specific aesthetic design elements affect overall willingness to enter different booths among
actual trade show visitors. Our attendee sample displayed a coherent and interpretable set of
preferences for exhibit design features. Finally, we found that some attendee characteristics
moderated the effect of design on preferences notably it was the theory-driven characteristics
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of product agenda breadth and CVPA, rather than simple demographics that produced these
moderating effects.
Research Implications
We have shown that design is a topic of relevance to B2B researchers. This research has
identified meaningful and managerially relevant design preferences. In addition, we constructed
a research framework for investigating behavioral responses to trade show booths, including four
key design attributes. We empirically examined this framework with an easily reproducible
conjoint methodology that may be useful to future research.
Practical Implications
Our results provide actionable managerial guidance on the aesthetics of booth design.
There is a general preference for closed designs i.e., attendees prefer having an intercept point in
the booth where they may gain information. Also, the closed design signals a higher density of
things to see in the booth, while offering a private, safe environment as well as more spatial
comfort. Attendees preferred higher amounts of surface decoration. Booths with low decoration
may be perceived as less complex, and therefore less stimulating.
Originality/Value/Contribution
We examined long neglected implications of design to B2B marketing and investigated a
key determinant of trade show performance. We believe this study has relevance to both scholars
and practitioners while setting a roadmap for future research.
Keywords: design, trade show, atmospherics, B2B, conjoint
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Introduction
The role of design in all its many facets has become central to marketing managers and
the subject of increasing study by scholars (e.g., Chiva and Alegre 2009; Radford and Bloch,
2011; Nishiwaka, Schreier, and Ogawa, 2013; Chen and Venkatesh, 2013; Seidel and Fixson,
2013). The mass media and the public at large have also become attuned to design issues with
numerous websites, videos, and publications featuring new designs from the Consumer
Electronics Show, Tokyo Auto Show, or New York’s Fashion Week. Design provides a means
of influencing buyers’ perceptions of settings, products, and firms (Bitner, 1992; Bloch, 1995;
Mowen, Fang, and Scott, 2010; Veryzer, 2000). Today, design decisions permeate nearly every
aspect of marketing strategy. In the product area, companies such as Apple, Dyson, and Sephora
achieve high profits because of design leadership (Michaels, 2010). Attention to product design
also applies to interfaces for mobile apps, packaging and even to shipping boxes. Graphic
design, video production, logo creation, and website development are key design elements that
influence the success of marketing communications strategy.
Design has always been critical in the creation of retail and service spaces that appeal to
browsers, buyers, and staff (Bitner 1992; Baker, Berry, and Parasuraman, 1988; Baker, Grewal,
and Parasuraman, 1994; Baker, Parasuraman, Grewal, and Voss, 2002). Craftsmen and their
patrons spent decades building awe inspiring castles, temples, and cathedrals that still attract
crowds, centuries after their construction. Great design has also drawn consumers to shopping
areas for thousands of years as in the case of Trajan’s Forum in Rome, and more recently, the
Montmartre district in Paris, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, the Ginza in Tokyo, and
Rodeo Drive in Southern California. Today’s marketing landscape is no different. Universal
Studios attends to the smallest design details in creating an immersive Harry Potter theme park
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experience (Khatchatourian, 2015). Sports teams demand city support for new stadiums with
stunning architecture to keep attendance levels high. McDonalds and other fast food companies
have been turning to upscale interior design as a way to combat the rise of competitors such as
Starbucks and Chipotle (Horovitz, 2011).
Although design has become increasingly salient to academic researchers, nearly all
design research to date has employed a consumer context. Studies of design issues in the realm
of business-to-business (B2B) marketing are largely missing. This is surprising given that there
is no reason to believe that professional buyers are less affected by design quality than are
consumers. In B2B marketing, buyers may be influenced by the design of industrial goods,
interior design, and architecture. One area of B2B marketing where design may be especially
important is the design of trade show booths to attract purchasing agents, industrial buyers, retail
managers, and influencers.
Just as outstanding design brings the public to churches, restaurants, stores, and theaters,
trade shows also must effectively employ design to attract visitors on a crowded show floor.
Managers recognize that design differentiates a firm from its competitors, shapes initial reactions
to a marketing stimulus, and generates inferences regarding other attributes. Accordingly, the
architecture of a trade show booth will affect traffic levels and the quality of interactions
between firm personnel and potential customers (Baker, Berry and Parasuraman, 1988; Baker,
Grewal and Parasuraman, 1994; Baker et al., 2002).
Trade shows are a vital component of business-to-business (B2B) promotion with
expenditures outpacing both advertising and direct mail (Gopalakrishna and Lilien, 2012). In
North America, the exhibition industry generates over $11 billion in annual revenue while
attracting over 60 million attendees and 1.5 million exhibitors. Key metrics such as net square
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feet of exhibit space, number of exhibiting companies, and overall attendance continue to trend
upwards (CEIR, 2013). Statistics for European countries are equally impressive with over 60
million visitors and 600,000 exhibitors attending trade shows annually (UFI, 2013).
Trade show exhibitors have a variety of objectives that include generating new customer
leads, introducing new products, building product awareness, finding distributors, gathering
competitive intelligence, and promoting corporate image (CEIR, 2006). The trade show booth is
the focal point in accomplishing these objectives. Attendees also have multiple objectives,
buying and non-buying, such as placing orders, seeking new product information, comparing
suppliers, networking, and catching up with industry trends (Godar and O’Connor, 2001; Smith
and Smith, 1999). Again, it is inside the booth where these goals are realized.
To maximize trade show performance, exhibitors must first attract visitors to their booth
(Gopalakrishna and Lilien, 1995). Customer development and lead conversion only occur after
the attendee has been drawn from the crowded show floor into a booth. Thus, an exhibitor’s
strategy is to draw visitor attention to a booth and to get some fraction of those paying attention
to step inside. Among various attraction tactics, design plays a critical role (Gopalakrishna and
Lilien, 2012). A well-designed booth can help a firm attract prospects, and also offers potential
long-term benefits by enhancing corporate image once the show concludes (Lee and Kim 2008;
Seringhaus and Rosson, 2004). Many exhibitors use the same booth across multiple shows over
several years thus, design quality may have an important long-term impact.
Effective booth design as a central aspect of a firm’s trade show marketing strategy
represents the main focus of this paper. Firms invest substantial amounts in construction time,
design talent, and dollars to develop attractive, attention-getting booths. Design spending,
including booth set-up, furnishings and display, accounts for nearly 30% of the total exhibit
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budget (CEIR, 2007; Drapeau, 2012). Just as savvy retailers use creative store design to attract
window shoppers, trade show marketers use booth design to attract attendees. An effective booth
must offer a setting conducive to customer interaction while being easy to navigate. It must also
be suitable for product demonstrations, promotional giveaways, and media coverage
(Gopalakrishna, Roster, and Sridhar, 2010).
In designing a booth, an exhibitor assembles a number of elements such as overall booth
size, design idiom, shape, finish materials, music, complexity, lighting, layout, and signage. For
example, one firm may want to create a booth that has a quiet, relaxing appeal, leading to a booth
design with an open layout, soft surfaces, and cool (blue spectrum) colors to facilitate visitor
entry and discussion. A different firm may assemble a strong, impactful collection of design
elements to create buzz and attract browsers. A precise, clean design might be used to reinforce a
firm’s image among a technically oriented client base. These examples indicate that there are
tradeoffs in design decisions that relate to the intended exhibitor goals and target audience.
For the most part, booth design has remained more of an art than a science, relying on the
creativity and past experience of designers. That is, exhibitors and their consultants design a
booth in a somewhat ad-hoc manner, fervently hoping that it will attract the appropriate mix of
visitors. Based largely on gut feelings and performance at previous events, improvements in
design strategy are crafted that are often incremental and prone to immense trial and error. This
research will show that aesthetics matter to trade show attendees and that design choices made
by an exhibitor determine visitors’ likelihood of entering a booth.
Despite the significance of design in B2B marketing programs, and in trade shows
especially, there is a dearth of scholarly research to guide strategic, audience-centric exhibit
design and investment decisions. The lack of research is intriguing given the scale of resources
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deployed by exhibitors. Our goal is to develop this knowledge base by building a framework to
better understand how effective booth design can improve trade show outcomes. Specifically,
our research objectives are to:
1) Provide a conceptual framework for developing and executing research on booth
design
2) Develop and demonstrate a simple, conjoint-based methodology for researchers and
practitioners who wish to optimize booth design
3) Examine the impact of specific booth design elements on booth attractiveness among
attendees
4) Explore individual differences in attendees’ preferences for booth design in order to
enhance target marketing among exhibitors
The present research proceeds with a review of the literature and conceptual foundations,
followed by an operationalization of key booth design elements, the research methodology,
empirical analysis and results, and a concluding discussion.
Below, we discuss a number of relevant research streams. However, it should be noted
that the majority of this research has focused on consumer rather than business markets. We
believe that our focus on the impact of design elements in a B2B context offers an important
contribution to the literature on design.
Environmental psychology and atmospherics
Research in environmental psychology suggests that physical space influences behavior.
An extensive body of work has examined the influence of spatial design in the context of offices,
housing, hospitals, prisons, and schools. This research shows that the overall physical setting as
well as individual design elements within that setting influence human behavior (Groat and
Canter, 1979; Lawton and Brody, 1969; Lynch, 1972). Aesthetic elements fall into two
categories: formal and symbolic (Kopec 2006; Lang 1988). Each plays a unique role in the
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perception of and response to design. Formal aesthetics encompass the physical aspects of
design, such as order, dimensions, level of enclosure, and complexity. The study of these
elements is often based on the Gestalt theory, which states that ‘people’s perceptions of stimuli
affect their behavior (Kopec, 2006, p. 85). Symbolic aesthetics focus on design aspects that
relate to meaning and higher-order processing. For example, the choice of design may be
associated with a firm being perceived as upscale, friendly, or high-tech.
In addition to aesthetic issues, scholars in environmental psychology have also examined
the ease with which visitors can enter and navigate a space (Mandel, 2013; O’Neill, 1991).
Spaces that are more legible are easier for a visitor to navigate and lead to a more successful
visit. The converse of legibility is spatial mystery. Most studies indicate that visitors prefer a
strongly legible space with a small taste of mystery to make it interesting. A very simple, totally
legible space can become boring. Thus, a booth design might benefit by being easy to enter and
find staff and product demos, but have a few spots that require the visitor to enter more deeply or
spend more time to fully explore.
Work on retail atmospherics has brought environmental psychology concepts to the
marketing domain, with interior store design viewed as a competitive asset (Baker et al. 2002;
Eroglu and Machleit, 1990; Michon et al., 2005; Wakefield and Baker, 1998). Retailers employ
design, colors, lighting, music, and scent to reinforce brand images and influence shoppers to
visit a store and spend more time and money once inside. Baker, Berry and Parasuraman (1988)
posited that retail atmospherics involve three basic elements. The design component reflects
functional and aesthetic elements such as style, materials, furnishings, architecture, and layout.
These involve considerable investments and strongly influence the appeal of a space. In a trade
show context, design includes exhibit size, form, decoration, layout, and materials. Ambient
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elements are background stimuli such as lighting, scent, and auditory conditions. The level and
nature of these conditions determine whether or not they gain attention and the valence of that
attention. Some researchers have examined the impact of music on retail store visitors (Bruner,
1990; Milliman, 1986). Others have investigated how lighting and temperature affect behavior
(Hidayetoglu, Yildirim, and Akalin, 2012; Milliman, 1982; Yalch and Spangenberg, 1990).
The third component is social, involving the staff and buyers present in the setting. For
example, crowding may influence willingness to approach a retail space (Michon, Chebat, and
Turley, 2005; Whiting and Nakos, 2008). This effect, however, is context-dependent: at a club,
rock concert, or sporting event crowding may be a positive aspect while the opposite might apply
at a fast food counter or grocery store. Also, the nature of individuals occupying a space affects
its appeal. Response drivers include similarity to the visitor, attractiveness, and friendliness.
Certain aspects of the social component are beyond the marketer’s control (crowding is an
outcome rather than a design input), while others are controllable (apparel of booth staff).
Services
Bitner (1992) linked the work on environmental psychology and atmospherics to service
settings arguing that setting design affects the reactions of both service providers and consumers,
for the physical setting can aid in or hinder the accomplishment of both internal organization
goals and external marketing goals (p. 58). In this framework, she explored three categories of
environmental features: (1) ambient factors, (2) spatial layout and functionality, and (3) signs,
symbols and artifacts. The first category, in line with Baker’s work, includes background sensory
stimuli such as lighting and scent. The second involves what environmental psychologists call
way finding, i.e., the ability of a visitor to effectively navigate a space with minimal confusion
(Dogu and Erkip, 2000). Here the focus is on the space layout and the impact of furnishings and
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equipment. The third dimension, drawn from work on symbolic aesthetics, emphasizes the
relevance of signs and symbols in forming first impressions.
Research framework and design
Based on the above literature and the design-related models provided by Bitner (1992)
and Bloch (1995), we depict our framework as it applies to a trade show setting in Figure 1. In
this framework, booth design is a multidimensional concept consisting of several elements that
impact attendees either individually or in concert. That is, booths vary along attributes such as
size, shape, color, layout, materials, and lighting. An effective design must blend these elements
in a manner that appeals to the target audience. Design leads to a psychological response an
attractive design will elicit affective feelings of pleasure and arousal (Baker, Levy, and Grewal,
1992; Bitner, 1992; Veryzer, 2000). Pleasure is the extent to which an attendee feels that a booth
would be pleasant to visit. Arousal is the excitement level an attendee anticipates if he or she
were to visit a booth. In a retailing context, store-induced pleasure has been tied to willingness to
buy, while arousal has been linked to time spent in the store and willingness to interact with sales
personnel (Baker, Levy, and Grewal, 1992).
****FIGURE 1 ABOUT HERE****
Responses to aesthetic stimuli are primarily emotional, although cognitive responses also
may occur. Design shapes beliefs and symbolic meanings via categorization and can produce
visitor attribution on aspects such as firm innovativeness, financial strength, formality, or
integrity. Affective and cognitive response arising from design lead to behavioral response.
Mehrabian (1976) suggested that people’s reactions to a space fall into two categories approach
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or avoidance. It all begins with exploring an unfamiliar environment. Approach includes actions
such as walking the show floor, picking up literature, or interacting with video displays the
types of behavior exhibitors seek. Bitner (1992) and Bloch (1995) used approach and avoidance
as outcomes variables in their design-related models. A successful design generates feelings of
pleasure, the right arousal level and meaning, leading to a desire to visit. These responses occur
quickly as an attendee walks the show floor making visit/not visit decisions spontaneously.
The influence of design on response is also subject to moderating influences that include
individual differences and situational factors. For example, past experience may affect response.
To wit, a novice may have difficulty navigating an exhibit floor with guidance only from the
show agenda. Such attendees might be better targets of attraction techniques than more seasoned
visitors (Gopalakrishna and Lilien, 1995). Bitner (1992) argued that subjects’ intended activities
in the space also influenced their responses to the design of that space. For example, a visitor
with a specific buying or negotiation agenda may be less concerned with booth or store design
than someone wanting to browse. The latter individual has the luxury of paying more attention to
peripheral cues such as atmospherics (Petty, Cacioppo and Schumann, 1983). Bloch, Brunel, and
Arnold (2003) found that individuals differ in the importance they attach to design aesthetics and
their ability to discern superior designs. In our context, attendees with a greater sense of design
centrality might devote more attention to booth aesthetics and evaluate them more carefully.
Situational factors also amplify or attenuate the link between design and response. For
example, the environment surrounding a booth (e.g., convention hall, other booths) and products
displayed may have a moderating effect. Consider, for example, the positive synergy between the
product and retail space in the case of Apple stores. Responses might be quite different if the
same stores displayed garden supplies or if iPhones were sold at Home Depot. Other situational
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factors such as the attendee’s available time also matter (Gopalakrishna, Roster, and Sridhar,
2010). Next, we discuss the elements of booth design that helped create our research stimuli.
Booth design elements
We considered several design elements as stimuli in the present study. We chose design
elements that have been commonly studied in environmental psychology, retail atmospherics,
and servicescapes but selected elements that were relevant to trade show booth design and were
also controllable by the firm. To validate our choices, we vetted them in discussions with a
professional trade show design firm to gain some perspective on practical aspects of booth
design. This led to the selection of four elements: level of surface decoration, colortemperature,
booth layout, and overall shape. Since each element incorporates both aesthetic and functional
features with potential countervailing effects, we do not state explicit hypotheses for the effects.
Rather, we define each element and discuss possible implications for attendee behavior.
Surface decoration is defined as the amount of visual detail in the booth façade. This
attribute is closely related to environmental complexity i.e., visual richness, ornamentation, or
information rate (Bitner, 1992; Kaplan, 1988). People have limits on how much information they
can process at one time thus exhibitors must deliver the key message while keeping an eye on
the visitors’ load level. High complexity may be viewed negatively on the aesthetic and load
dimensions as with a billboard-strewn highway, producing unpleasant arousal. However, to the
extent that complexity is associated with helpful signage, a positive reaction is plausible. Load
tolerances vary across individuals and situations. For example, older people tend to have lower
tolerance for highly complex environments than younger people (Lawton and Brody, 1969).
Also, visitors who browse may tolerate a higher load than those with specific purchase-related
goals (Huang, 2000). In our research, a high level of decoration was marked by a strongly
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patterned booth façade while low decoration was characterized by a plain façade. We were
interested in assessing levels of visual load or clutter while avoiding the contamination of brand
identification or logos (Malhotra, 1982; Peterson and Rhodes, 2003).
Color is central to design and affects the meaning that individuals draw from a stimulus
(Lebrecque, Patrick, and Milne, G.R. 2013). With enhancements in production technology,
marketers are increasing using color to add variety to product offerings and reinforce brand
image. For our purpose, we examined effects of the predominant color temperature of the booth:
warm, cool, or neutral. Color temperature is analogous to white balance in digital photography
where tones of yellow denote the warm version, blue means cool, and true grays signify neutral.
Color is also important symbolically since it shapes the environment and influences perceptions
of space, ambiance, and overall image (Kopec, 2006). Color affects internal and behavioral
response through past experiences (i.e., memory), such as linking yellow and red in the same
logo to a fast food brand. It also affects response via socially learned associations. Red, used in
stop signs, signifies danger or caution. Retailing scholars note that color draws attention and that
warmer tones are the most arousing (Bellizzi, Crowley, and Hasty, 1983). Cooler colors tend to
be more relaxing and produce less arousal (Lebrcque, Patrick, and Milne 2013). Also, people
tend to be warm- or cool-color dominant, i.e., more sensitive to colors at the warm or cold end of
the spectrum suggesting heterogeneity in color preference among attendees (Bellizzi et. al,
1983). Color has also been linked to physical attraction. In a controlled experiment, subjects who
could sit anywhere in a room did so closest to a wall that was yellow and furthest from white,
despite prior assertions that they felt warm environments to be less pleasant (Bellizzi and Hite,
1992). These authors also studied the effect of warm and cool colors on consumer feelings and
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purchase likelihood. Based on an approach-avoidance scale, consumers seemed to prefer
shopping in a cool setting, where they felt more comfortable and at ease.
Booth layout reflects the arrangement and placement of entrance barriers (such as
furniture, walls, and columns) in two ways: open or closed. An open layout implies free entry
without having to pass any desks, kiosks, or other impediments. A closed layout involves
reception desks or displays that people encounter upon entry. Booth layout shapes the navigation
and interaction opportunities among visitors and staff, thus influencing approach or avoidance
responses. Social interaction is affected by the physical space in which it occurs and is related to
the idea of path, or channels for travel from one area to another in a given environment (Bennett
and Bennett, 1970; Lynch, 1972).
In the trade show setting, an open layout affords an unobstructed view (from outside) of
navigable paths inside the booth and of possible contact with personnel and attendees. These
elements, in turn, convey how an attendee can expect to meet his/her goals, such as information
gathering via verbal/non-verbal channels, making a purchase, or meeting with booth staff. This
reflects Lynch’s (1972) notion of legibility the ease of understanding and navigating a space.
As previously noted, the converse of legibility, mystery, has been associated with both pleasure
and arousal (Lynch, 1960). Generally, individuals seek an optimum blend of the two. A closed
layout offers less opportunity for visualization from the outside, thus providing greater mystery.
Booth shape reflects the overall shape: rectangular or curved. This design characteristic,
previously investigated in the context of airport passenger spaces (van Oel and van den Berkhof,
2013), has been associated with architectural concepts of coherence and compatibility. On the
one hand, a curved style is closely related to organic or natural shapes that tend to be preferred
over manmade elements (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1982). On the other hand, a rectangular style is
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more compatible with the architectural aspects of a trade show venue, usually characterized by
straight lines, making it more compatible with the surroundings and offering coherence.
However, the compatibility of rectangular designs may decrease arousal due to low complexity,
creating boredom and lower intention to enter a booth. Shape connects with basic human needs
and instincts a rectangular design connotes shelter better than curved since the top part more
closely resembles a roof. In architecture, roofs typically involve straight lines rather than curved.
This aspect may elicit primitive feelings of safety and security, fulfilling a basic human need.
Individual difference moderators
One of our objectives was to examine individual differences that have a moderating
effect (see Figure 1). We considered three attendee characteristics given the constraints of our
research context (see the Methodology section): 1) demographics, 2) design-related traits, and 3)
breadth of product agenda. Demographic variables offer an observable link to preferences and
are useful for targeting although the theoretical rationale for linking demographics with booth
design preference is tenuous. Although we considered demographic variables, we focused on the
other two categories: design-related traits and product agenda of attendees.
Design-Related Traits: People vary in design skills and in their appreciation for design
(Bloch, Brunel, and Arnold, 2003). Thus, in general, the design of a product, store or a trade
show booth may have more impact on those who inherently care more about aesthetics and
design. The authors introduced the concept of Centrality of Visual Product Aesthetics (CVPA),
defined as the level of significance that visual aesthetics hold for a particular consumer in his/her
relationship with products. CVPA taps three dimensions: (1) perceived value assigned to
superior design, (2) level of design acumen, and (3) strength of response to design elements.
17
People with high CVPA believe that aesthetics are important and tend to be skilled in evaluating
design. Also, the response level to good/bad designs is correlated with CVPA.
Bloch, Brunel, and Arnold (2003) found that high-CVPA consumers were more sensitive
to aesthetic design features, implying that CVPA is a trait-like individual difference variable.
Although developed in a product design context, CVPA has been expanded and successfully
applied to study individual differences in response to aesthetics in other contexts such as art
styles (Mowen, Fang, and Scott, 2010), Internet home pages (Yoo and Kim, 2014), and retail
store designs (Vieira, 2010). We believe the CVPA scale is appropriate in the trade show context
to assess individual differences for two reasons. First, no other tested measure exists that is better
tailored to trade show design centrality. Second, and more important, individuals’ differential
attention to design is generally consistent over a variety of domains. This partially explains the
successful extension of CVPA to contexts other than its original product domain. Someone
deeply concerned about product design is also likely to care about the design of fashion, décor,
architecture, and media. Marketers such as Apple, Uniqlo, and Sephora, who cater to design-
aware customers, highlight the aesthetics of their store setting, packaging, products, and
advertising graphics to achieve a consistent buyer experience. Thus, high-CVPA attendees will
likely have an eye for design, in general, and have more pronounced reactions to some design
attributes; for example, they may be more likely to notice and evaluate the color palette of a
booth. We operationalized CVPA (see following section) using an existing scale that allowed us
to test for variations in preference across individuals differing in their attention and skills related
to design.
Product agenda: Gopalakrishna, Roster, and Sridhar (2010) examined the intentions and
behavior of trade show attendees, drawing connections between these behaviors and other
18
variables, such as attendee characteristics and post-show activity. Prior research (Godar and
O’Connor, 2001; Kim, Kim, and Seol, 2013) has highlighted that attendee objectives, or agendas
are important. Two types of behaviors at a show are mentioned: agenda-related (e.g., meeting
with a potential supplier) and non-agenda-related behaviors (e.g., an unplanned booth visit
because of an attention-drawing display).
In this research, we consider breadth of product agenda; defined as the variety of
products an attendee is interested in before entering the show floor. Gopalakrishna, Roster, and
Sridhar (2010) reported a link between product interest and agenda-related behavior; a broader
agenda increased the likelihood that a booth visit was agenda-related. In other words, interest in
a wide range of products triggered activity in the pursuit of that agenda. In our research, we
expect that attendees with a broad agenda would have a different booth design preference from
those with a narrow agenda. The former have much to see and accomplish and may prefer
exhibits with a simple, less arousing design.
Methodology
To address the research questions and investigate our proposed conceptual model, we
surveyed trade show attendees using a conjoint approach. Our objective was to investigate
attendee preferences for different booth design attributes. Specifically, we explore the
relationship between aesthetic design elements and attitudinal response (decision to visit the
booth), moderated by attendee characteristics.
In considering the frame for our survey, we wanted respondents who were familiar with
trade shows to enhance study relevance and external validity. With help from an exhibit research
firm, we obtained a sample of attendees at a broadcasting industry trade show held in 2013. Two
weeks after the show concluded, attendees were contacted via email and offered an incentive for
19
participation in an online survey. After some categorization questions, respondents were directed
to a page displaying eight booth renderings created by digital art professionals from an exhibit
design company (see Figure 2). Respondents saw the same eight images, in a randomized order
to avoid sequence bias. Each rendering projected a different combination of the design attributes,
created via a fractional factorial design. When clicked, a larger version of the image appeared
permitting a closer inspection. Respondents were asked to view the booths as if they encountered
them at the show and ranked the images in order of preference, marking 1 for the booth they
most preferred to visit, and 8 as the least preferred. To complete the task, they dragged the image
into a cell on a grid corresponding to the rank they wanted to assign to that design.
****FIGURE 2 ABOUT HERE****
This research design offered several advantages. Having recent trade show attendees,
rather than a student or general population, enhanced the study’s external validity. Respondents
drew on their actual trade show experience; allowing them to more easily visualize the booth
design shown. The drag-and-drop ranking task allows respondents to express their preferences
with minimal effort, an advantage over ratings-based conjoint analyses where respondents have
difficulty in explicitly stating preference magnitudes (Green and Srinivasan 1978). The present
design also offered key benefits relative to choice-based conjoint (CBC) methods. Although we
were able to analyze our results using a choice model, as in CBC (see model in the next section),
our design is less burdensome because respondents were presented with a single ranking task,
rather than a series of individual choice tasks. Finally, administering the survey shortly after a
20
trade show had the advantage of placing respondents in that mindset, allowing us to link their
product agenda via show registration data to preferences they expressed in the survey.
We also captured several attendee characteristics (see descriptions of all variables in
Table 1). We measured CVPA using seven items from Bloch, Brunel, and Arnold (2003). We
accessed show registration data to infer product agenda breadth and several demographic
variables such as gender, age, nationality, and position type. We operationalized breadth of
product agenda by the number of different product categories in which an attendee indicated
interest during pre-show registration. The demographic variables helped assess whether
traditional demographic-based targeting offered any potential benefits. We chose reference levels
for dummy variables to be the most heavily populated category in each case in order to derive
regression coefficients signifying comparisons of the greatest substantive interest given our
research context.
****TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE****
Analysis and results
The online survey link was sent to 9,000 qualified show attendees. After two follow-up
emails, 632 usable responses were received, providing a 7% response rate. To test for non-
response bias, we compared show registration data on 43 self-identified industry affiliations from
respondents with the qualified population of 9,000. The proportion reporting an affiliation with
each industry, when compared between the sample and the population using z-tests, showed that
of the 43 paired proportions, only three differed significantly at the .05 level consistent with
21
random chance with no difference larger than 2.8%. Thus, we conclude that non-response bias
is not a serious issue here.
Descriptive statistics for all attendee characteristics are shown in Table 2. The mean
values for the dummy variables FEMALE and FOREIGN were .111 and .199 respectively
implying that a very low proportion of respondents were female or from outside the U.S. and
Canada. Thus, the effects of these variables are difficult to observe. The demographic variables
did not correlate strongly with agenda breadth or CVPA. Only a few were significant, the largest
being -0.14 (between CVPA and POS: TECH). This suggests that, if the design-related traits and
show behaviors indeed drive preference heterogeneity, then an audience-centric design approach
focusing only on demographics would likely be ineffective.
We first performed a confirmatory factor analysis on the reflective CVPA scale. In line
with prior research (Bloch, Brunel, and Arnold, 2003; Vieira, 2010), we employed a three-factor
specification with a second-order factor. The CFA model demonstrated excellent fit (χ2 = 5.26, 7
df, n.s.; CFI = .99). The selected items (see Table 3) also showed strong reliability (Composite
Reliability = .79) and convergent validity (Average Variance Extracted = .54).
****TABLES 2 and 3 ABOUT HERE****
Since respondents completed a ranking task, OLS-based analysis techniques designed for
metric conjoint data were not appropriate. Ranking data are polytomous rather than continuous,
violating the normality assumption of OLS regression. Analysis techniques designed for typical
ordinal data such as cumulative logit regression were also ill suited to our data. A respondent
assigned each rank (from one to eight) to one of the eight profiles, such that once s/he had ranked
22
seven of the profiles, only one choice remained for the eighth. This violates the independence
assumption of both OLS and cumulative logit regression techniques.
Therefore, we analyzed the data using the exploded logit model (a variant of conditional
logit also known as the rank-ordered logit model; Beggs, Cardell, and Hausman, 1981; Chapman
and Staelin, 1982; Hausman and Ruud, 1987; Kamakura and Mazzon, 1991; Allison and
Christakis 1994). This model treats the eight ranks as a sequence
1
of seven choice tasks: first
choose one of the eight profiles for the top rank; then assign the second rank to one of the
remaining seven; and so on until only two profiles remain. Finally, choose one for the seventh
rank, defaulting the last profile to the eighth rank.
Like other choice models used in conjoint analysis, the exploded logit employs the
stochastic utility concept, such that for profile j evaluated by respondent i, the total unobserved
utility Uij is composed of a deterministic and a stochastic component:
με
The deterministic portion of the random utility model can be stated as (Punj and Staelin 1978):
μ
Where:
xi = column vector of variables capturing the characteristics of respondent i,
β = row vector of parameters for the effects of respondent characteristics,
zj = column vector of dummy variables representing the levels of the design attributes of
profile j,
γ = row vector containing the parameters for the effects of design attributes,
wij = column vector of respondent-profile interactions,
θ= row vector of interaction effect parameters.
1
Although the notion of a sequence of choices is a useful metaphor, the model does not assume any particular order
to the choice tasks.
23
Note that, per common practice, the deterministic component of utility is linear in its parameters.
Also, the interaction termθwij, implicitly captures observed respondent preference heterogeneity
i.e., if an interaction exists between a booth design attribute and an attendee characteristic, we
can conclude that, ceteris paribus, respondents who vary on that characteristic will have
preferences that differ according to the interaction effect. For complete details on the likelihood
function and estimation of the exploded logit model, see Appendix A.
We first tested the main effects of booth design characteristics while controlling for
attendee characteristics by constraining the coefficients in (2) to zero. The results are shown in
Table 4 (an alternative model including demographics can be found in Appendix B). We find
that respondents preferred closed booth layouts over the open versions (βOPEN = -.121, σβ = .014,
χ2 = 73.278, 1 d.f.). At first glance, the result seems counterintuitive an open booth plan with
free access from any direction should be more appealing. The preference for closed designs may
be explained in several ways. First, a closed design may have created the impression of a
greeting area or concierge desk leading to inferences of a higher service level. Second, it also
may have signaled that there was more to see in the booth since the floor space usage seemed
higher. Third, it may have offered a feeling of physical comfort as the substantial roofs
comprising our renderings appeared to have more architectural support. Finally, a closed design
partially obscures the contents of a booth, enhancing visual complexity from outside. Complexity
is an important dimension of information load that increases the desire to shop in a space, a
potential advantage for the closed booth (Huang, 2000).
24
****TABLE 4 ABOUT HERE****
Attendees also tended to prefer greater surface decoration (βHIGH = .060, σβ = .014, χ2 =
18.294, 1 d.f.). This is consistent with the environmental psychology literature where surface
decoration is noted as a form of complexity, which stimulates attention and intention to shop.
The coefficient for warm colors was marginally significant and negative (βWARM = -0.042, σβ =
.022, χ2 = 3.573, 1 d.f.), while cool colors had no significant effect (βCOOL = -.025, σβ = .019, χ2 =
1.783, 1 d.f.). The lack of strong effects for color as well as shape (βCURVED = -.008, σβ = .014, χ2
= .332, 1 d.f.) suggests that preferences for these attributes probably vary considerably among
attendees, with opposite sub-group preferences nullified in the overall effect.
From these results, we conclude that the design elements we considered had an impact on
preference and the decision to visit a specific booth. Some design elements were more important
than others, and respondents displayed a coherent set of preferences. Beyond the utilitarian
facets, the aesthetic aspects (e.g. surface decoration) also played an important role.
Preferences derived from main effects may be misleading, as they do not account for
heterogeneity. The average coefficients for curved shape and cool color were close to zero,
suggesting that the average respondent cared little about these attributes. However, some sub-
groups may have preferred the curved design, while others the rectangular design. If such sub-
groups were linked with observed attendee variables, preference heterogeneity among
respondents could be identified via the interaction effects of design attributes with attendee
characteristics. Mapping design preferences to attendee heterogeneity is useful for an audience-
centric design strategy, with specific design elements tailored to the target audience. We now
25
proceed to the unconstrained exploded logit model, where we employed the full parameterization
of the deterministic component of utility in equation (2) by including interactions.
The results of the unconstrained model (see Table 5; an alternative model including
demographics with no significant interaction effects is shown in Appendix C) provided broad
support for the notion that aesthetic design preference heterogeneity can be identified based on
attendee characteristics. Even though the average respondent did not strongly prefer curved or
rectangular booth styles, agenda breadth of attendees offers an explanation (βCURVED*AGENDA = -.04,
σβ = .01, χ2 = 6.08, 1 d.f.). This reinforced the notions of coherence and compatibility in booth
design. As previously noted, rectangular designs are likely to be perceived as more coherent and
compatible with the show surroundings. If visitors with a broad product agenda spend their time
largely on agenda-related behaviors, the arousing nature of incoherent and incompatible designs
such as curved edges tends to be a distraction. However, those with a less involved product
agenda
2
may be more willing to engage with curved booths due to their relative novelty, an
aspect of space that is linked to exploratory behavior (Huang, 2000).
****TABLE 5 ABOUT HERE****
There was substantial heterogeneity in preferences for open vs. closed designs. Those
with a broad product agenda preferred closed designs (βOPEN*AGENDA = -.03, σβ = .01, χ2 = 4.53, 1
d.f.) which is surprising, given our previous discussion of legibility and mystery. An open exhibit
offers high legibility (attractive to someone with a broad product agenda) and low mystery
(distracting for such individuals). Compatibility offers an explanation. A large number of trade
2
Agenda breadth as with CVPA was mean-centred prior to analysis, such that values of agenda breadth below
the mean were associated with increased preference for curved designs.
26
show booths have closed designs; in Gopalakrishna, Roster, and Sridhar’s (2010) study, more
than 50% of booths had four walls. Since we asked respondents to imagine they were on a show
floor, the closed design likely appeared more compatible with the surroundings, reducing
undesired stimulation for attendees with broad agendas. This result is consistent with the idea of
information load (Huang, 2000). The closed booth, featuring a greater complexity of elements
along the exterior, seems more attractive to those looking to buy (extensive agenda), and less so
to those wanting to browse (limited agenda).
CVPA was also associated with booth layout. This trait had a significant interaction
effect with open designs on rankings (βOPEN*CVPA = -.06, σβ = .02, χ2 = 15.13, 1 d.f.). High-CVPA
individuals tend to have stronger reactions to aesthetic design features. A closed design is
associated with mystery and arousal. While stimulation and arousal are undesirable for those
with a busy agenda, it may be acceptable to others. This suggests that attendees who value
aesthetics had a strong positive reaction to the mystery associated with a closed exhibit.
We did not find strong effects for booth color in the unconstrained model. This may be
due to the understated nature of this element, especially when presented in two dimensions (see
Figure 2). In other words, the variations in color temperature used in our stimuli may not have
been strong enough to generate meaningful response differences. We speculate that bolder, more
dramatic coloration might yield stronger reactions. Examining a wider range of levels within
each design attribute constitutes a promising avenue for future research.
Overall, the findings from the unconstrained model suggest that effective booth design
involves considering the preferences of a firm’s target audience. Designing a booth that hits the
preference sweet spot for all attendees is infeasible. Also, targeting based on demographics alone
is ineffective; we did not find any interaction effects between demographic variables and design
27
features (see Appendix C). Instead, we see evidence for the efficacy of segmenting attendees
based on agenda-related characteristics (Gopalakrishna, Roster, and Sridhar, 2010) and on
design-related traits, and determining the design preferences of those segments.
Discussion
Aesthetics reflect the experience of form through meaning (Kaplan, 1988). In a trade
show setting, our study revealed that design had an effect on attendee preferences for exhibits, a
key factor in deciding to approach or avoid a booth. All booth designs are not created equal
some design characteristics are preferred over others. While our results affirm the large
investments firms make in designing exhibits, they also challenge the manner in which these
decisions are made. In addition to exchange and information related concerns, design and
aesthetics clearly matter to trade show attendees, an important finding given the dearth of prior
research on design in B2B marketing.
We invoked the literatures in environmental psychology and retail atmospherics to
identify four key attributes of exhibit design, and showed that meaningful differences in
preference exist for these attributes among trade show attendees. The concepts of information
load, legibility, mystery, and compatibility are central to the interpretation of our results with
information load (i.e., complexity) and compatibility being highly important. Among the
attributes investigated, shape, layout, and surface decoration had an effect on attendee response.
This set of attributes is not exhaustive, however attendee responses involve an interplay of
multiple sensory channels, not just visual.
Our results suggest that the traditional exhibitor-centric approach involving ad-hoc
decisions on booth design has much room for improvement. An audience-centric perspective
also has value. This perspective provides greater insight into attendee preferences and individual
28
differences in these preferences. In operational terms, individual differences were explored in the
form of interactions between design attributes and attendee characteristics. An attendee’s agenda
breadth and a design-related trait, CVPA, proved to be especially important in driving preference
heterogeneity, while demographics did not have significant effects. An exhibitor that hires a
design firm without understanding the preferences of its target audience, and the mechanisms
driving these preferences, may end up evoking avoidance responses. This means the design turns
away the very attendees the firm aims to attract. We provided proof-of-concept for an audience-
centric approach to booth design by: 1) defining and operationalizing aesthetic design features,
and 2) examining how preferences for these features vary across attendees. We believe that an
exhibit strategy that leans towards a more customer-oriented booth design is advantageous for a
firm.
Our study makes several contributions. First, we identified meaningful and managerially
relevant design preferences in a B2B marketing setting. This may be contrasted with prior work
on design in B2C marketing management. Second, we constructed a research framework for
investigating behavioral responses to trade show booths, including four key design attributes.
Third, we empirically examined this framework with an easily reproducible conjoint
methodology. Fourth, our results indicate that specific aesthetic design elements affect overall
willingness to enter different booths among actual trade show visitors. Our attendee sample
displayed a coherent and interpretable set of preferences for exhibit design features. Finally, we
found that some attendee characteristics moderated the effect of design on preferences notably
it was the theory-driven characteristics of product agenda breadth and CVPA, rather than simple
demographics that produced these moderating effects.
29
Our results provide actionable managerial guidance on the aesthetics of booth design.
There is a general preference for closed designs i.e., attendees prefer having an intercept point in
the booth where they may gain information. Also, the closed design signals a higher density of
things to see in the booth, while offering a private, safe environment as well as more spatial
comfort. Attendees preferred higher amounts of surface decoration. Booths with low decoration
may be perceived as less complex, and therefore less stimulating.
There are several limitations to the present study. First, the response rate was lower than
expected, and although we found no evidence of non-response bias, our analyses had reduced
statistical power. Second, our operationalization of booth color temperature was likely
understated, so it is difficult to draw conclusions about the true importance of this design
attribute. It is conceivable that more aggressive color variations might have produced sharper
effects. Third, our conjoint design was based on a strictly additive preference model and did not
allow for interaction effects among the design attributes. These interactions may be important if
attendees draw meanings from booth designs on a gestalt, rather than element-by-element, basis.
Finally, future scholars ought to consider the effect of attitudinal response (i.e., preferring one
booth over another) on real-life behavioral responses (i.e., approach or avoidance). Although the
considerable investments made by firms in booth design strongly suggest that this effect is
substantial, and past empirical research links sensory responses to a space with intentions to visit
(Beckman, Kumar, and Kim, 2013), it represents a fruitful area for further study. It would also be
beneficial to compare the effect of design on approach/avoidance to other factors. Additional
characteristics of the exhibit, such as the brand and the location of the booth, as well as
situational factors, such as attendee time constraints, would be especially worthy of
investigation.
30
Future research
Systematic research on design in B2B marketing is practically nonexistent. Our study
provides an initial but much needed foundation for research in a trade show domain. There are
numerous ways to build on this foundation we highlight a few promising ones here. Exploring
whether the preference patterns (e.g., closed designs) observed in our sample are generalizable to
other show contexts would be valuable. To the extent that consistent preference patterns within
certain groups (e.g., broad vs. narrow agenda individuals) can be discovered across multiple
contexts, the need for exhibitors to invest in marketing research to measure preferences may be
reduced. Given our results for product agenda breadth, other agenda-related moderators may be
worthwhile to consider. Although we note the link between agenda breadth and agenda-related
behaviors, explicitly considering the latter offers intriguing possibilities. In particular, the
agenda/non-agenda dichotomy closely resembles the information acquisition/exploratory
behavior distinction drawn by Holbrook and Hirschman (1982). This analogy opens the door to
considering experiential aspects of trade show attendance, and how exhibitors can create value
by attempting to target attendees drawn to hedonic aspects of the trade show experience. Another
avenue for future research is to examine whether excessive surface decoration becomes over-
stimulating, leading to an inverse U-shaped effect.
31
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39
Table 1: Descriptions of Analysis Variables
Booth Attributes (Level)
Cool
Color attribute (reference = Neutral)
Warm
Color attribute (reference = Neutral)
Curved
Shape attribute (reference = Rectangular)
High
Surface decoration (reference = Low)
Open
Layout (reference = Closed)
Attendee Behaviors and Traits (Numerical)
Product Agenda
Number of product categories attendee indicated interest in
(operationalization of Agenda Breadth)
CVPA
Regression factor scores for the CVPA scale, second-order factor
Attendee Demographics (Dummy except age)
Female
Gender (reference level = Male)
Age
Age of attendee
Foreign
Nationality (reference level = USA / Canada)
Pos: Exec
Executives and corporate management (reference level = Creative
professionals)
Pos: Sales/Mark
Sales and marketing professionals (reference level = Creative
professionals)
Pos: Tech
Technical professionals (reference level = Creative professionals)
Pos: Other
Other position (reference level = Creative professionals)
40
Table 2: Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations
for Attendee Characteristics
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
Agenda
1
--
CVPA
2
.00
--
Female
3
-.09 a
.08 a
--
Age
4
.00
.00
-.12 b
--
Foreign
5
-.02
.04
-.04
-.08 a
--
Pos: Exec
6
.03
-.01
.03
.18 c
.10 a
--
Sales/Mark
7
-.09 a
.07
.09 a
-.05
.02
-.20 c
--
Tech
8
.04
-.13 c
-.17 c
.02
.02
-.50 c
-.20 c
--
Other
9
-.02
.01
.05
-.02
-.05
-.15 c
-.06
-.15 c
a: (P < .05), b: (P < .01), c: (P < .001)
41
Table 3: Centrality of Visual Product Aesthetics Scale (CVPA)
Items Used and Standardized Loadings
Item
Standardized Loading
A product’s design is a source of
pleasure for me
.59
Owning products that have superior
designs makes me feel good about
myself
.67
Beautiful product designs make our
world a better place to live
.70
I see things in a product’s design that
other people tend to pass over
.74
Being able to see subtle differences in
product designs is one skill that I have
developed over time
.59
When I see a product that has a really
great design, I feel a strong urge to buy it
.66
If a product’s design really “speaks” to
me, I feel that I must buy it
.64
Source: Bloch et al. (2003)
42
Table 4: Results of Main Effects Exploded Logit Model
(elements of θ constrained to zero)
Estimate Std. Error Chi-Square (d.f.)/sig.
Design Attributes
Ref Level
Color: Cool
Neutral
-.025
.019
1.783 (1)
Color: Warm
Neutral
-.042
.022
3.584 (1)
Shape: Curved
Rect.
-.008
.014
.332 (1)
Surface Decoration: High
Low
.060
.014
18.240 (1)
P < .001
Layout: Open
Closed
-.121
.014
73.278 (1)
P < .001
Attendee Characteristics
Agenda
.003
.014
.059 (1)
CVPA
.009
.017
.272 (1)
43
Table 5: Results of Exploded Logit Model with Interactions
Each cell to be read: Parameter estimate ( χ2 value)significance
Simple effects in outer perimeter; interactions in interior
Agenda
CVPA
Simple Effects
.00 (.00)
.01 (.09)
Cool
-.02 (.38)
.01 (.18)
.01 (.30)
Warm
-.03 (.58)
.00 (.00)
.00 (.02)
Curved
.02 (.70)
-.04 (6.08) a
-.02 (.86)
High
.06 (6.35) a
.00 (.00)
.02 (.87)
Open
-.14 (29.73) c
-.03 (4.53) a
-.06 (15.13) c
a: (P < .05), c: (P < .001)
44
Figure 1: Responses to Trade Show Booth Design
45
Figure 2: Stimuli Used in Ranking Task
WARM/CURVED/
LOW SURFACE/OPEN
WARM/RECT/
HIGH SURFACE/CLOSED
COOL/RECT/
HIGH SURFACE/OPEN
COOL/RECT/
LOW SURFACE/OPEN
NEUTRAL/RECT/
LOW SURFACE/CLOSED
COOL/CURVED/
HIGH SURFACE/CLOSED
NEUTRAL/CURVED/
HIGH SURFACE/OPEN
COOL/CURVED/
LOW SURFACE/CLOSED
46
Appendix A: Further Details on the Exploded Logit Model
The stochastic utility component of the exploded logit model follows the usual
multinomial logit formulation, where theεij in (1) are assumed to be i.i.d according to a double
exponential (Gumbel) distribution, resulting in the following choice probability for choosing
profile j* out of a set of J profiles (McFadden, 1973):
μ
μ

As noted earlier, the exploded logit model is based on the notion that a set of rankings is
mathematically equivalent to making J 1 choices, in which all but the last-ranked profile is
chosen over the lower-ranked profiles in each case. Thus, the likelihood of an individual’s set of
rankings, Ri, from r = 1 to r = J in descending order of preference, can be expressed as follows
(Kamakura and Mazzon, 1991):




Where j(r) indicates the profile j selected for the r-th rank. This results in the following log
likelihood function (Beggs, Cardell, and Hausman, 1981; Allison and Christakis, 1994):

   




This likelihood function is identical to a model of ordered survival times across multiple
individuals and can be fitted using partial likelihood procedures for proportional hazard models
(Allison and Christakis, 1994). Our analysis is based on one such tool, PHREG in SAS.
Appendix B: Results of Main Effects Exploded Logit Model with Demographics
Estimate Std. Error Chi-Square (d.f.)/sig.
Design Attributes
Ref Level
Color: Cool
Neutral
-.025
.019
1.787 (1)
Color: Warm
Neutral
-.042
.022
3.573 (1)
Shape: Curved
Rect.
-.008
.014
.334 (1)
Surface Decoration: High
Low
.060
.014
18.294 (1)
P < .001
Layout: Open
Closed
-.121
.014
73.230 (1)
P < .001
Agenda and Traits
Agenda
.003
.014
.058 (1)
CVPA
.008
.017
.257 (1)
Demographics
Female
.002
.023
.007 (1)
Age
.002
.015
.011 (1)
Foreign
-.001
.018
.004 (1)
Pos: Exec
.001
.028
.002 (1)
Pos: Sales/Mark
-.003
.045
.003 (1)
Pos: Tech
-.002
.028
.005 (1)
Pos: Other
.000
.056
.000 (1)
Appendix C: Exploded Logit Model with Demographic Interactions
Each cell to be read: Parameter estimate ( χ2 value)significance
Simple effects in outer perimeter; interactions in interior
Agenda and Traits
Demographics (from Show Registration Data)
Agenda
CVPA
Female
Age
Foreign
Pos: Exec
Sales/Mark
Tech
Other
Simple
Effects
.00
(.00)
.01
(.03)
.00
(.00)
.00
(.04)
.00
(.03)
.00 (.00)
.02 (.15)
- .01 (.12)
-.02 (.07)
Cool
-.02
(.30)
.01
(.14)
.02
(.70)
.02
(.42)
.01
(.43)
-.01
(.10)
.00 (.01)
-.08 (1.65)
.03 (.64)
.06 (.59)
Warm
-.02
(.30)
.00
(.00)
-.01
(.08)
-.02
(.29)
.02
(.88)
.04
(2.08)
.00 (.00)
.05 (.47)
-.01 (.02)
-.03 (.09)
Curved
.02
(.28)
-.04
(6.54) a
-.01
(.76)
.03
(2.20)
.00
(.03)
.02
(.94)
-.02 (.58)
-.06 (1.51)
.04 (2.23)
-.03 (.27)
High
.07
(5.46) a
.00
(.02)
.01
(1.67)
.00
(.00)
.02
(1.35)
-.01
(.09)
-.01 (.08)
.01 (.11)
-.03 (.99)
.02 (.19)
Open
-.13
(20.82) c
-.03
(4.88) a
-.07
(15.08) c
-.02
(.79)
-.01
(.55)
.00
(.05)
-.01 (.22)
.04 (.69)
.00 (.02)
.01 (.01)
a: (P < .05), c: (P < .001)
Implications for Business Marketing Practice
We organize this summary into three sections: Managerial Relevance (i.e., the issues we
address as seen from the practitioner’s perspective), Research Approach (i.e., the methodology
we used to address the problem), and Implications for Stakeholders (i.e., what our findings mean
for exhibitors, show organizers, exhibit design firms, and show attendees).
Managerial Relevance
Trade shows are an important medium of communication, especially in business-to-
business settings. Trade show expenditures are now ahead of print advertising and direct mail in
B2B markets. Our research centers around an extremely important tactical aspect of trade show
practice that has received little attention in the academic B2B literature effective booth design.
Given the importance of design aesthetics in various aspects of marketing strategy such as
retailing, product design, packaging, and promotion, it stands to reason that trade show booth
design is also an important competitive asset in the exhibitor’s attendee attraction strategy.
Unfortunately, academic study of design effects in any business to business (B2B) context has
been largely absent. This lack of attention exists despite the large sums spent by exhibitors on the
appearance of their booths. In addition, exhibit design decisions are typically made on an ad hoc
basis, left to the creativity of designers that is, via a designer-centric approach. Although this
approach has a number of merits, a greater consideration of the firm’s target audience based on
market research has not been well utilized. Although more research is needed, we sought to
make progress in resolving these research shortfalls by answering three questions:
1. Do trade show attendees have definite preferences for aesthetic elements of booth
design?
2. Can these preferences be captured with standard market research techniques?
3. Are there distinct preferences that vary across attendees, such that an audience-
centric exhibit design strategy is a feasible option
50
50
Based on our research findings, we believe that the answer to all the above questions is in
the affirmative, with important implications for exhibitors and other stakeholders.
Research Approach
We contacted recent attendees from a trade show in the broadcast industry to conduct an
online survey. The survey employed a conjoint design that asked the respondents to imagine that
they were on the floor of the trade show. We provided professionally designed mock-ups of eight
different trade show booths with varying parameters. We asked respondents to rank the eight
booths in order of preference for a visit using an intuitive drag-and-drop approach. These
prototypical booths encapsulated four key design facets: surface decoration, color, layout, and
shape. We also collected information on the scope of attendees’ agendas and the importance they
gave to design issues in general. We analyzed the preference data using an exploded logit
approach available via commercial statistical software suites. Importantly, we designed this
study in such a way that firms exhibiting at a trade show could easily execute the survey and use
the results to plan and design the exhibit.
Implications for Stakeholders
Through the conjoint study noted above, we show that exhibit design plays an important
role and that aesthetic preferences differ according to attendee characteristics. We illustrate a
simple conjoint methodology in our case, requiring only seven choices from the respondent
to gather exhibit design preference data that can easily be analyzed via an exploded logit model.
The findings of our empirical study have important implications for four groups of stakeholders:
trade show exhibitors, show organizers, exhibit design firms, and show attendees.
51
51
Trade show exhibitors
Firms planning to exhibit at a trade show need to incorporate aesthetic considerations into
their strategy to attract the relevant audience to their booth. Specifically, this implies considering
three aspects: First, booth design is an important element of the exhibit attraction strategy. Trade
show attendees have preferences for specific elements of booth design. Therefore, firms without
substantial internal resources to study and execute effective booth design may benefit from
contracting the services of a professional exhibit design firm.
Second, exhibitors who have resources that they can direct towards booth design should
work with designers to carefully consider and incorporate the projected aesthetic preferences of
their target audiences. We showed that preferences for various design features vary across
attendees. For example, if an exhibitor anticipates dealing with time-harried attendees (i.e., those
with an extensive show agenda), then esoteric curved designs would not be effective. Rather,
traditional boxed designs that conform to their surroundings will be seen as less distracting and
more appealing. Further, if a firm expects to attract those who view themselves as connoisseurs
of design, then closed structures are preferable to those without clear boundaries.
Third and more generally, investing resources in market research to identify the design
preferences of a firm’s target audience seems worthwhile. We illustrate a simple conjoint design
for eliciting and analyzing preferences in booth design.
Trade show organizers
The role of aesthetics in booth attraction has implications for the pricing of trade show
floor space. For example, the value of show floor locations that offer clear sight lines from a
number of vantage points should be higher due to the ability of the exhibit’s visual aesthetics to
potentially draw more attendees. Therefore, based on an understanding of design preferences of
52
52
visitors, and the locational advantage of specific spots on the show floor, show organizers may
be able to charge a higher price for such locations than they otherwise could, while delivering a
greater value to the exhibitors in return.
In addition, trade show organizers could use aggregate data on the design of exhibits and
visiting patterns of attendees to draw general conclusions about the types of booths that appeal to
a show’s audience. It may be advantageous to then share this information with exhibitors, given
that trade shows remain successful only to the extent that they provide sustained value to
attendees and exhibitors.
Exhibit design firms
Our research suggests a possible shift in the philosophy of exhibit design operations from a
designer-centric to an audience-centric approach. Exhibit design firms should move towards
utilizing information from the intended target audience of a client firm that is planning to exhibit
at a trade show. Design decisions based on such inputs are much more likely to appeal to the
client firm as it is likely to result in a better quality of booth visitors. Beyond the notion of
audience-centric design, we find consistent preferences among trade show attendees for closed
designs with a high level of surface decoration. Designers can use these and other general
principles uncovered from market research as a starting point to customize their booth design for
more effective outcomes.
Trade show attendees
While exhibitors and show organizers can carefully craft physical spaces to direct
attention and attract traffic to specific locations, attendees can hopefully make better use of their
limited time while at a show. Although we do not study the challenge posed by time constraints,
53
53
attendees are likely well-served, indirectly, by a more effective and efficient use of their time by
visiting exhibits that they find in line with their agenda and intuitively appealing to their taste.
... TS exhibitions enable commercial and social interactions among exhibitors, non-exhibiting company attendees, organizers, industry associations, distributors, intermediaries, and government agencies. Different stakeholders have different motivations and objectives for participating in TSs (Blythe, 2014;Kirchgeorg, Springer, & Kästner, 2010;Rosson & Seringhaus, 1995). For instance, TSs offer a unique opportunity for exhibitors to publicize new offerings, develop strategic alliances, demonstrate new products, observe competitors, and acquire new customers (Gopalakrishna et al., 2019;Kim & Mazumdar, 2016;Jha, Balaji, Ranjan, & Sharma, 2019). ...
... For instance, consequences might be described in terms of the "number and valence of reactions to new products" (sales-related expectations). Psychological consequences identified in the TS literature are image-building, relationship-building, and motivation-enhancing (e.g., Blythe, 2014). For example, consequences might be described in terms of the "number of personal contacts with existing customers" (relationship-building expectations). ...
... This exposure is well-received by exhibitors because a TS is expected to increase product interest and awareness (Hansen, 2004). This non-selling dimension of the TS is also important for marketing executives (Blythe, 2014;Kerin & Cron, 1987) who are keen to participate in activities that enhance their firms' corporate reputation and overall image (Gopalakrishna et al., 2010;Smith, 1998;Hansen, 1996). In addition, Barczyk, Glisan, and Lesch (1989) noted three imagebuilding reasons for exhibitor participation in a TScompetitive and social pressure due to rivals' participation, customers' expectations as a sign of economic solvency, and image development. ...
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... Petrova (2014) suggests that trade fairs have an exceptional place in a communication mix. More so, trade fairs are seen as an important element of business promotion strategy (Bloch, Gopalakrishna, Crecelius, & Murarolli, 2017) and considered second only to personal selling in the promotional mix (Gilliam, 2015). It is therefore fair to mention that trade fairs facilitate the creation or maintenance of an intensive contact between exhibitors and visitors. ...
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The success of a trade fair is measured against the quality and quantity of exhibitors in attendance. This research therefore sought to get insights into exhibitors’ preferences that captivate them to attend trade fairs from an African perspective. The objectives of the study were to determine the role that exhibition organizers are expected to play by exhibitors, to establish the nature of benefits sought by exhibitors and to identify service quality preferences by exhibitors. Structured questionnaires were self-administered to 136 exhibitors attending the 2019 edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair. Results revealed that organizers are seen as the link between exhibitors and visitors, hence are responsible for marketing the event so that it lures more exhibitors. An Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) done on the benefits sought by exhibitors yielded two factors which are product positioning benefits as well as interaction with key stakeholders. Accessibility of the venue, communication by organizers, boothscapes, exhibition environment and ideal duration of the exhibition are some of the quality issues highlighted as preeminent to exhibitors. A further EFA done on exhibitors’ service quality preference extracted two factors which are logistical arrangements and event atmospherics.
... Research also indicates that exhibitions are the main venues for introducing new ACTs to construction practitioners CI in the infrastructure sector . This is because exhibitions enable a two-way information exchange process between customers and vendors via a number of mechanisms where customers can meet vendors to ask questions and see live demonstrations, attend workshops to learn about new ACTs, collect technical information, gain insights into new technologies and industry trends, build relationships with vendors and acquire and compare competitive vendor product and service information (Measson, 2015;Bloch et al., 2017;Kitchen, 2017;Wong and Lai, 2018). ...
... drilling, pumping and earthmoving). (Sariola, 2018; Information from vendors about the ACT as a solution to a specific business problem 2 Promoting expertise knowledge (Cierpicki et al., 2000;Rogers, 2003) Expert information from vendors on the ACT to understand how it works 3 ACT trends (Wang et al., 2016; Information about ACT trends 4 Learn about new ACTs (Rogers, 2003;Bettis-Outland and Guillory, 2018;Sepasgozar and Davis, 2019) Customized training about an ACT 5 Find out about competitors (Kuan and Chau, 2001; Information about how competitors use ACTs 6 Technical information (Wozniak, 1993;Peansupap and Walker, 2005; Davis , 2019) Technical information about ACTs 7 Benefit of a new ACT (Cierpicki et al., 2000;Kaiming Au and Enderwick, 2000) Information about benefits of ACTs 8 Comparing market prices (Peansupap and Walker, 2005;Gaile-Sarkane, 2009) Comparative market prices about ACTs 9 The same format comparable information (Almeida and Fernandes, 2008; Information in a format that allows comparison between different ACT solutions and products 10 Detailed performance information from vendor's technical staff (Rogers, 2000;Butler and Sellbom, 2002) Performance information about ACTs 11 Evidence of ACT performance (McAfee, 2002;Peansupap and Walker, 2005) Evidence of ACT performance 12 Quality of vendors' services (Modrak and Knuth, 2012;Bloch et al., 2017) Quality of vendor services 13 Live demonstrations (Mullins et al., 2012;Bloch et al., 2017) Live equipment demonstrations to see the operating performance of ACTs 14 Interpersonal relationship (Zhu et al., 2014;Kitchen, 2017) Interpersonal relationship with ACT vendors 15 Easy maintenance (Butler and Sellbom, 2002;Lee et al., 2013) Information about maintenance and life cycle costing ...
... drilling, pumping and earthmoving). (Sariola, 2018; Information from vendors about the ACT as a solution to a specific business problem 2 Promoting expertise knowledge (Cierpicki et al., 2000;Rogers, 2003) Expert information from vendors on the ACT to understand how it works 3 ACT trends (Wang et al., 2016; Information about ACT trends 4 Learn about new ACTs (Rogers, 2003;Bettis-Outland and Guillory, 2018;Sepasgozar and Davis, 2019) Customized training about an ACT 5 Find out about competitors (Kuan and Chau, 2001; Information about how competitors use ACTs 6 Technical information (Wozniak, 1993;Peansupap and Walker, 2005; Davis , 2019) Technical information about ACTs 7 Benefit of a new ACT (Cierpicki et al., 2000;Kaiming Au and Enderwick, 2000) Information about benefits of ACTs 8 Comparing market prices (Peansupap and Walker, 2005;Gaile-Sarkane, 2009) Comparative market prices about ACTs 9 The same format comparable information (Almeida and Fernandes, 2008; Information in a format that allows comparison between different ACT solutions and products 10 Detailed performance information from vendor's technical staff (Rogers, 2000;Butler and Sellbom, 2002) Performance information about ACTs 11 Evidence of ACT performance (McAfee, 2002;Peansupap and Walker, 2005) Evidence of ACT performance 12 Quality of vendors' services (Modrak and Knuth, 2012;Bloch et al., 2017) Quality of vendor services 13 Live demonstrations (Mullins et al., 2012;Bloch et al., 2017) Live equipment demonstrations to see the operating performance of ACTs 14 Interpersonal relationship (Zhu et al., 2014;Kitchen, 2017) Interpersonal relationship with ACT vendors 15 Easy maintenance (Butler and Sellbom, 2002;Lee et al., 2013) Information about maintenance and life cycle costing ...
Article
Purpose – Advanced construction technologies (ACTs) are transforming infrastructure projects, yet there has been little research into and theorization of the process by which these innovations are diffused. The purpose of this paper is to address this paucity of research by exploring the problems of information asymmetries between vendors and customers in the ACT diffusion process. Specifically, the paper explores whether information asymmetries exist between vendors and customers in the ACT diffusion process and what forms they take. Design/methodology/approach – A structured survey of 153 vendors and customers of advanced construction technologies was undertaken across three international ACT exhibitions in Australia. Findings – By comparing the perspectives of both customers and vendors across 15 technology diffusion process variables using importance-performance analysis and principal component analysis, significant differences are found between vendors’ and customers’ perceptions of how effectively information flows in the ACT diffusion process. The results show that vendors are significantly more optimistic than customers about information asymmetries on a wide range of diffusion variables. They also highlight significant potential for information asymmetries to occur which can undermine the advanced technology diffusion process. Originality/value – The results provide important new conceptual and practical insights into an underresearched area, which is of increasing importance to a major industry, which is being transformed by advanced technological developments. Keywords Innovation, Performance, Technology, Exhibition, Industry 4.0, Vendor, Infrastructure, Information asymmetry, Diffusion, Advanced construction technologies
... The authors adopted three criteria for the evaluation of exhibition booth: effectiveness (the amount of received information), efficiency (the measurement of time taken to collect the information) and affect (the perception of the experience and the mood booth visitors have during and after their visit). Bloch et al. (2017) investigated the relation between booth design and visitors' behavioral response in selecting booths by considering individual differences and agenda characteristics as moderating factors. According to their findings, design elements such as shape, layout and surface decoration affect preference and the decision to visit a specific booth, but these preferences may vary depending on visitors' agenda breadth and a design-related trait (e.g. ...
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Purpose This study proposes a literature review and, based on the findings, the authors develop a conceptual framework, attempting to explain how technology may influence visitor behavior and eventually trade show performance. Design/methodology/approach The present research explores the role of visitors in the trade show context. The analysis specifically focuses on the variables that influence visitors’ participation at business-to-business trade shows and how their satisfaction and perception can be related to exhibition performance. The authors also take into consideration technological trends that prior to COVID-19 pandemics were slowly emerging in the trade show industry. Findings The findings highlight a continuity between pre-, at and postexhibition phases. Visitors’ behavior represents a signal of how a trade show is perceived as postexhibition purchases and next visit emerge as signals of an exhibition evaluation in relation to visitors’ perception. Besides being urgent tools for the continuity of the sector due to the pandemics, emerging technological trends can be key elements in understanding visitors’ behavior and in boosting their interest and loyalty toward trade shows. Originality/value The paper proposes a conceptual model including top notch and innovative technological trends to improve the understandment of visitors’ behavior. Both practitioners in companies and academics might find the study useful, given the digital uplift generated by the pandemics.
... e display design is a comprehensive art centered on commodities, which uses effective resources to beautify commodities in a certain space. e design of a booth plays an important role to determinate a trade show success in attracting visitors and providing a positive business atmosphere [20][21][22]. Many auto brands have begun to pay more attention in participating in trade shows instead of the development of the car itself. ...
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